Conscience rights hit by proposed pharmacy rules, Institute warns

Conscience protections for pharmacists would be diluted by draft proposals, The Christian Institute has warned.

Currently, pharmacists who do not wish to sell abortifacients, such as the morning after pill, may refer customers to another pharmacist.

But new draft General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) standards weaken that right of referral and state that pharmacists must ensure that “person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs”.


In its official response to the GPhC consultation, The Christian Institute warned that Christians and others could be discouraged from entering the profession, and called instead for conscience rights to be strengthened.

The Institute cautioned: “Many pharmacists with conscientious objections to certain treatments will be forced to act against their conscience or leave the profession.”

Its response added that the draft rules are “unclear” and should instead follow the “well-established” approach taken by the General Medical Council.

Open to challenge

It added: “We consider that the proposals being consulted on, if enacted, are open to legal challenge.”

Considering the standards in detail, it warned that the proposals will “profoundly discourage Christians, those of other faiths or simply those with conscientiously-held beliefs from entering the pharmacy profession in the first place”.

The consultation closed on 7 March, and the General Pharmaceutical Council said it “will consider the feedback we received in an upcoming meeting”.

Under fire

The standards have already come under fire from the Christians in Pharmacy group, Christian ethicist Dr Peter Saunders and pro-life campaigner Chris Whitehouse.

And Hina Shahid, chair of the Muslim Doctors Association, has said her organisation is concerned that “certain proposed changes are very restrictive”.

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